Friday, April 24, 2009

Remembering Shinobu's choices

  • Apr. 24th, 2009 at 9:45 PM
Friday, the weather is overcast, cool and breezy.

I went to dinner with DareKun and Dan again, this time we tried Vietnamese.  It was fun.

Lilo is glad to see me back.  She was fighting with my slipper.

I'm still working on the blue lace shawlette.

This shows the pattern better.

I had a massage today, so I'm real mellow.  I try to see Wendy at at least once a month.  I feel so great afterward and the feeling lasts a week or so.  Someday I will be rich and I'll see her once a week.

Wendy and I were telling tales from the past, and it reminded me of one I'd like to tell here.  It's about how to live a life of no regrets by making conscious choices.

The person who introduced me to Buddhism was a charming Japanese lady named Shinobu.  One day I asked her to tell me about how she ended up in San Diego.  She said after the war she was living on her parents' farm in her hometown village, a small farming community high in the mountains of the northern island of Hokkaido.  Life was filled with hard work on the farm and while it was rewarding, there was not much in the way of entertainment.  It was very cold there in the winter and they were often snowed in, with snow up to the second story of the farmhouse.  They had to dig tunnels in the snow to get out.   In the winter the family would sit around a low square table, with a band of quilt attached to the edge.  In the middle was a well in the floor and there was a charcoal brazier in the well with live coals in it.  The family brought their work (schoolwork, crafts, newspaper, vegetables to slice, whatever they were doing) to this table, put the quilt tight around themselves to seal in the heat, and all worked together there, enjoying the only really warm spot in the house. Beds were covered in thick fluffy quilts.  

After the war, only 2 young men returned to the village from the front, and they were already engaged, marrying soon after returning.  Shinobu complained to her mother, asking how would she ever marry in this village?  Her mother told her that there was no point in complaining.  People who complain need to make a choice and take action to change their circumstances.  So, Shinobu needed to make a choice.  She could choose to stay on the farm, enjoy the farm life, inherit the farm, become rich (she had a great head for business/numbers) and having chosen this of her own free will, never complain again about the lack of marriage prospects.  If she wanted to stay on the farm, she should know that she was choosing to remain single, so no point in complaining about not having children.  If she choose the second option, marriage, she should understand that meant moving to town, where there were more young men, so no complaints about giving up the farm life, which she loved.  Make a conscious choice and then no complaints, after all, you choose it.

Shinobu decided she wanted to marry.  So they discussed where she should go to find more men.  She and her mother decided she should move to Tokyo and get an office job in the hope of meeting more men.  Shinobu moved to Tokyo and found work in an accounting firm, not a small matter in the aftermath of the war, with much of the city bombed out.  She returned home to visit her mother and her mother asked her how it was going, specifically had she met any nice young men. 

Shinobu responded that in Tokyo, too, not so many had returned and they were choosing somewhat younger girls, as they had lots of choice.  Shinobu complained that she did not stand a chance against the young, pretty, sophisticated city girls.  The young men all just laughed at her countrified Hokkaido accent.  Her mother responded that complaining means you need to make a choice.  So, if this plan was not working, how could they expand the pool of possible men. Older, no, they also died in the war. Younger, no, not good. So what kind of men was she seeing in Tokyo?  Shinobu said, mostly American ones.  Her mother asked her if she wanted to marry an American?   Shinobu thought that would be all right.  Her mother said she should be aware that if she choose to marry an American, he would eventually be posted back to he States and she would end her life with him in the US.  Never mind what the nice young man might promise her when he urgently  wanted to marry.   Since it was so expensive to travel back to Japan, she might not see her mother again. So if she choose that, she should understand what she was choosing up front.  If she did not want that, she could choose a challenging accounting career in Tokyo, stay single, get rich and never look back at marriage.  Shinobu wanted children, so she decided to marry an American. 

So her mother asked her where Shinobu could work where she would meet lots of them?  Shinobu changed jobs and went to work for less money as a cashier at the PX on base, where she met many nice young men.  Bob Thomas proposed.  He was a few years younger, but very sweet. He said he would never leave Japan, but she knew the Navy might have other ideas.  She took him to see her mother and they agreed that he was a nice young man who would try his best to make her happy.  Bob didn't speak much Japanese, and she did not speak much English until later, but she said they communicated in a way that made language unnecessary.  She married Bob, the Navy sent them to San Diego, and she was happy, knowing that she had made clear choices, so no need to regret anything.  She did manage to visit her mother with the grandchildren, but only twice.  

She and Bob were very happy together, he adored her.  They had 4 children and lived in the outskirts of San Diego, where she had a huge (maybe acre) garden and happily tended her Japanese vegetables to her heart's content.   I would visit her to chant together and after the meeting she would ask us if perhaps anyone felt like a little tempura? Yes, yes, we all said.  She would take her basket and go out into her garden and return with super fresh vegetables.  Depending on the season,  yard long beans, Japanese eggplants, pumpkin or some unique Japanese vegetables I did not recognize.  Then she would dip them in batter and fry them up nice and crispy and we would all sit around dipping tempura in sauce, drinking green tea, talking and laughing and having a great time.  This was the life she chose, so no regrets.

Her mother was an interesting lady....

Have a great night,

No comments:

Post a Comment